A proof that Facebook is right to refuse bans of political ads

Yes, I too can approve some Facebook move.

A proof that Facebook is right to refuse bans of political ads /img/russian-election-trolling.jpg

There is an article at NPR, about “Russian Election Trolling Becoming Subtler, Tougher To Detect”. But it’s also about a pair of other interesting things.

Some new research has shown how “Russia’s trolling specialists have evolved their disinformation and agitation techniques to become subtler and tougher to track”

The trolls have “moved away from creating their own fake advocacy groups to mimicking and appropriating the names of actual American groups”.

The interesting thing is that the trolling material seems “not intended to help a specific candidate”

Kim’s findings also suggested a level of political sophistication about the operations she analyzed: The accounts targeted battleground states, including those expected to be critical in 2020, such as Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio and Arizona.

What does this mean?

At least two things, besides what is explicitly written in the article. One is that, as already implied in at least one other research in Italy, online propaganda through social networks is not necessarily about convincing as many people as possible to vote in some way: as I reported two years ago, it is more, possibly much more, about just making sure that enough people in the right electoral districts:

  • do not change their minds and keep voting as they always did, no matter what
  • or just get disgusted/disenfranchised enough to not vote at all

The other thing written between the lines of that research is right behind the “subtler, tougher to detect” argument.

The acknowledgment that election trolling, by Russians or any other foreign agent, is hard to detect is also another proof that Facebook cannot, and therefore should not be asked to, “block political ads”. What that research should remind us is that, in real life, it’s almost impossible to draw the line between political and non-political. Everybody here knows, or should know by now, how much I dislike Facebook. But Facebook is right on this. Stopping political ads would be impossible even for them, unless they go full Orwell, up to a point where it would make much more sense to not have elections at all.